As a tour operator I dealt with many travel agents who called our office quite frequently for different quotes. When I followed up with the travel agent, they were honest when they told me that the client had changed their mind, or bought with someone else, or that they had never heard back from the client. I could hear the frustration in their voices. Believe me, I was frustrated too. Who likes to work for nothing?
There were a few agents who were not as upset, even if they had lost the client, because they had charged a fee for consultation. But the real target of this business is not to make money on consulting fees, but to make commission, deliver a great trip, have a satisfied client who will recommend you to other potential clients.
So, what went wrong? It is easy to blame the client.
I like to think that sometimes we win and sometimes we learn (not lose). So let’s learn from those situations:
Personally, I believe that when talking to a client I need to be completely present with them on the phone or in person. I need to give them 100% of my attention. I can’t be distracted by driving, shopping, taking care of kids, or even feeding my pet. My client needs and deserves all of my attention.
I need to hear his/her voice to understand what kind of client they are. By hearing their voice, it’s easy to tell if this is the first call they are making to ask about the vacation, or if this is call number 8, but they are motionless in their decision making.
If they sound inexperienced, you need to guide them with your questions and do a reality check for all impossible requests. How many people? When and where? What is the budget? And finally, when will they be ready to book?
If the client comes to you for a proposal of 6 people to Italy and France, one week in July, for a budget including airfare of $1,000 each, the client needs a reality check, because that is too much for too little, at that time of the year, in that destination. A nice conversation will give you and the client more of an idea whether this is a serious commitment, or just someone with great intentions and dreams. Don’t promise to try to find a package for this amount of money, because you will be wasting each other’s time. But, also do not think that this is a client with no potential. Many times, these are “virgin” clients who just need to learn a little more about the place they are going, and adjust the time of year, budget, or even destination. Do that successfully, and you’ll have their business for life.
Also, don’t underestimate a motionless client. Many times you’ll have a client who has called many travel agents before you, and they seem to be tired of the same kinds of promises and answers. They may just need a little laugh, or a little of a “travel agent being original” and voila, you’ve got that client as well.
It’s very important to control the client by making sure you give them clear deadline dates for decisions and payments. Politeness and kindness go together when you are making efforts to control of the situation. You’ll close the deal every time if you listen carefully to your prospective clients.
More will be written on this subject. Feel free to write and ask questions to firstname.lastname@example.org